… continued from “Networking 101.”
So, now that you understand the basics of networking, you are ready to attend a networking event. Bravo! The following articles provide further tips and techniques for how you can engage yourself effectively and successfully when at that networking event you’re about to go to.
And remember, networking is not reserved just for when you’re attending functions, but it is something you can do pretty much anywhere and anytime.
Seven Ways to Connect at a Networking Event
So you’re going to a networking function that you have never been to before (or maybe even one you have) and you’re determined to crack the networking code and start building priceless relationships. Be aware that it’s possible to go to a networking event and not have any “networking moments.” It is not just about showering and showing up. It’s about connecting with people and finding ways to help them progress. Here are seven proven strategies for making contact at networking events.
1. Go it alone.When attending networking functions, communicate to your carpool buddies that you should all fan out. Moving about a networking event solo encourages people to approach you and makes it easy to mingle and initiate conversations. It may be more comfortable to have a friend right there with you [and that’s okay if you wish to initially go with a partner], but remember: you are there to grow your network, not hang with the people already in your network.
TIPS FOR WORKING A ROOM
In many networking events, you will find yourself with time to “mingle” among the other attendees before the program begins. It may be beneficial for you to spend some time planning and preparing how you will “work the room” to get the most from your efforts.
· Be sure to introduce yourself!
1. Say your name clearly. “Hello, my name is Joe Curtis. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
2. Shake hands. And have an effective handshake. This may appear obvious, but you have probably been on the receiving end of at least one “bone-crusher” and one “limp fish.” Practice your handshake to avoid giving one of those yourself!
3. Use an “elevator speech” (Editor: more on this below): describe who you are or what you do in ten seconds or less.
· Start with small talk.
· Don’t stay too long in one place. After eight to ten minutes, excuse yourself with a pleasantry such as, “It was nice meeting you … ”
·When appropriate, offer a business card, and ask the other person for one of his or hers. Sometimes, it is more appropriate to exchange business cards only when you depart from one another.
· Let preparation and practice be your guide. Spend some time planning your conversation generators.
Potential “conversation generators”
Prior to a networking event, prepare three neutral questions you can ask, such as:
Tell me how you know the host, company, etc.
What made you decide to come to this event?
What other organizations in the ______ industry do you belong to?
Focus on neutral topics:
Have you been to one of these events before?
Is the location near your home?
The latest news on the local sports team, etc.
Be observant. What is around you? A special attraction, park, etc.
What business you are in
Sports you play
Read the newspaper or look at magazine covers (of news, business, and general interest publications)—each source replenishes your conversation starter repertoire.
Begin with a smile, eye contact, and an outstretched hand.
2. Stand near the registration table. After you have registered and put on your name tag, take advantage of the many opportunities to make small talk with new arrivals after they have signed in. These are the couple of minutes when most people are alone and interested in someone new to communicate with. Even something really easygoing like, “Looks like a good turnout…” is probably good enough to get a friendly conversation started. Remember that like you, people are there to make new contacts so they’ll likely respond well to your casual conversation starter.3. Study the tags.If name tags are preprinted and on display at the registration table, scan the tags of the other attendees to see what opportunities await you. [Someone I know who is an experienced networker] does something pretty neato. If she spots a nametag on the registration table of someone she would like to meet, she asks the people manning the table if she can clip a note to their tag saying she would like to meet them. She swears by it. By the way, the name tag is worn on the right side to provide an easy sight-line to your name when shaking hands.
4. Circle and scan. Before diving into the event, try circling the room and checking out the nametags for people or companies you definitely want to make contact with while there. Always have a purpose. It does you no good to attend any networking function unless you define your objectives to know why you are there.
5. Look for people standing alone.These folks may be nervous, and your initiative to approach them will often endear you to them. Plus, one-on-one networking is the best networking. It is hard to join a group of people talking unless invited. 6. Sit between people you do not know well.If the event is a sit-down affair, do not sit by a friend or business associate. You already know that person! You might be sitting there a while, so make sure you are going to be sitting by someone you can form a new relationship with. Plan who you want to sit by, but wait until the last minute to actually sit down so you can keep making new contacts.
TIPS FOR WORKING A TABLE
Many networking events will feature a meal if held during meal time hours. It is crucial to practice good table etiquette to make the best impression.
· Listen to learn. Start the conversation by asking questions: why people are there, what they hope to gain, how they found out about the event. Avoid monopolizing the conversation.
· Keep your business cards handy, but do not deal them out impersonally.
· Practice good table etiquette. Let common sense and consideration of others be your guide.
7. Hang out at the food table.
I know it sounds like I’m joking, but people tend to be easily accessible around food. Stand near the food table, but not the bar. People tend to grab their drinks and move away from the bar, but are more likely to linger near the grub.
As people check out the buffet table, small talk comes more easily. “That Danish looks good…” is as good an opener as any. Once they have their hands full, people often look for a flat surface where they can place their plate and beverage. Take a spot next to them and get to chatting.
Check this out. Our endorphin levels are higher when we are close to food, which boosts our memory and the chance that we will remember and be remembered. We humans are a trip, aren’t we?
One quick DON’T: Don’t go to networking functions hungry. Eat before you go so you can focus on the people, not the cantaloupe. If you are hungry, grab a quick bite off to the side, and then mingle. And don’t talk with your mouth full. (I hope I didn’t need to write that.)
Once the event is over, your networking doesn’t stop! Be sure to follow up with those you’ve met, keep in contact, share information and offer to help in any way you can. And be sure to send a written acknowledgement or “Thank You” note to your networking contacts.
Networking can be a fun and easy way to enrich your life, broaden your horizons, and enhance your career. But, it can also be potentially devastating if you act rudely, insensitively, or ignore the needs and desires of others. Remember, crucial to your success is that you treat networking as an exchange of ideas, information, and experience. You are not selling or simply telling or “sponging” off of others for your own benefit only. Be generous in sharing your talents, experiences, and ideas, and always be respectful of those around you.
Do you have a successful networking story you’d like to share with us?Or any tried and proven tips on what works for you? If so, send it in. We’d love to hear from you.
Q: What is an “elevator speech”?
A:This is your explanation of who you are and what you do. It should be well prepared, concise, interesting and able to be presented in 10 or 15 seconds. The saying comes from the idea that you may find yourself in an elevator with a potential investor or client. You should be able to introduce yourself and what your company does in a memorable, concise way before the end of the elevator ride. You have an average of 10 to 15 seconds.
Do you have an elevator speech? If not, get one today. Script your 15 second speech and practice it with friends. Be prepared, you just never know when you might need it.